March 28, 2006

UCI reinstate doctor who leaked Armstrong documents

LONDON (Reuters) - Cycling's ruling body (UCI) has
reinstated the doctor who last year supplied a journalist with
documents signed by Lance Armstrong at the 1999 Tour de France
that were used to accuse the American rider of doping.

Mario Zorzoli, a manager at the International Cycling
Union's medical service, was suspended at the end of February
after admitting he had unwittingly given the doping control
forms to a journalist from the French sports daily L'Equipe.

"It was a UCI decision to bring him back because we felt it
was the right thing to do," the governing body's president Pat
Mcquaid told Reuters by telephone on Tuesday.

"We've received a lot of letters from people and
institutions involved at various levels who did not want Dr
Zorzoli to become a scapegoat because they know he is valued by
the UCI.

"We've had letters from several cycling teams and riders,
including Lance Armstrong, who supported his return."

In August L'Equipe, saying it had access to laboratory
documents, reported that six of Armstrong's urine samples
collected on the 1999 Tour showed "indisputable" traces of the
illegal blood-booster erythropoietin (EPO).

Armstrong, who retired last year after winning a record
seventh Tour, has denied ever taking performance-enhancing
drugs. In October, the UCI appointed a Dutch lawyer to
investigate the allegations.

The UCI said at the time the L'equipe article appeared in
August 2005 that, with Armstrong's permission, the journalist
had only been given a copy of one doping control form.

However, after being shown copies of 15 forms signed by
Armstrong, the UCI launched an internal investigation.

Zorzoli said he must have provided all the forms but only
so the journalist could write an article "proving that Mr.
Armstrong never asked for an authorization to use any drugs
after he successfully fought his cancer."

Armstrong overcame testicular cancer to become the most
successful rider in the Tour's history.

(Additional reporting by Stephen Farrand)